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U.S. Department of State
96/06/02 Interview: CBS "Face the Nation", Geneva
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 2, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
BOB SCHIEFFER AND TOM FRIEDMAN
CBS-TV - "FACE THE NATION"
June 2, 1996
MR. BOB SCHIEFFER: With us this morning from Geneva, Secretary of State
Warren Christopher. Joining in the questioning this morning, Thomas
Friedman, columnist for The New York Times.
Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for coming this morning. Let me tell
you what Dan Meridor, an official of the Likud Party, Mr. Netanyahu's
party, said just this morning. He tells Israeli Radio that Mr.
Netanyahu will slow down the pace of future negotiations, but, he says
the Likud Party will honor the peace agreements that have already been
negotiated, even though it opposes them. Is that good news of bad news?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think, Bob, the thing to do is for us not to
rush to judgment. I talked to Mr. Netanyahu this morning. He assured
me that he's fully committed to the peace process. He said he was
looking forward to coming to Washington to meet with President Clinton
and me and others. He's putting together his cabinet.
I think until that happens, I don't think we ought to make any
judgments. Mr. Netanyahu also emphasized that only he would speak for
his government, and until he actually speaks out on these issues, I
think we ought to indicate our willingness to work with him.
We have a very strong interest in maintaining a relationship with
Israel. It's served us very well. It's brought us several agreements
in the Middle East: the Jordan-Israel agreement; the three agreements
between the Palestinians and Israel; there were several economic summits
So much has been gained, and I think we ought to try to preserve the
continuity of that peace process. I was reassured by Mr. Netanyahu's
statement to me this morning that he fully supports the peace process.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So you come away from that conversation this morning
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm reassured that he wants to sit down with us
and go over the background. We'll have, when he comes to Washington,
I'm sure, a full and candid discussion with him. We have a good deal of
background on these issues that he's entitled to have. We'll give that
to him, and I think that he will maintain a policy here of pursuing
peace, doing it in his own way, no doubt, but we intend to try to work
with him. We had a very close relationship with his predecessors --
Prime Minister Peres and Prime Minister Rabin -- and we hope to have a
similar relationship with him.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, Yasser Arafat, of course, was the partner
of Shimon Peres in the peace process up until now. We are told he is
extremely worried about the election of Mr. Netanyahu. Have you or your
people talked to him yet, and what are you saying to him?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I've not talked to him directly, but our people
have talked to him. We've urged him, as we have other Arab leaders, not
to rush to judgment; to wait and let Mr. Netanyahu put together his
cabinet; to give him time to take positions on these issues.
I think it's significant, Bob, that the new government has adopted a
policy of direct contacts with the PLO. One of the top aides to Mr.
Netanyahu has already talked to Arafat's top aide, so communication is
going on there. The pace of it, the way it's done, of course, will be
up to them, but I think they'll be back in communication -- carrying out
the commitment to carry forward the agreements that have already been
MR. TOM FRIEDMAN: Mr. Secretary, you were just speaking about
communication. Shortly after his victory, Mr. Netanyahu telephoned King
Hussein of Jordan and the President of Egypt, but he pointedly did not
telephone Yasser Arafat, his Palestinian peace partner.
Do you think we can get the kind of progress you're looking for without
direct contact at the highest level -- not aides to aides -- between
Israel and the Palestinians?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We'll have to see about that over time. This
was not a casual contact, though -- a principal aide to Mr. Netanyahu
called Arafat's top aide. I think that's the beginning of direct
contacts between the two. As I say, the pace and form of that, of
course, will have to be up to the parties.
MR. FRIEDMAN: So it's okay with you that Netanyahu doesn't deal
directly with Yasser Arafat?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tom, it would be certainly arrogant for me to
try to determine the pace and form of their particular contacts. They
have a policy of direct contact; that is what is important, but that
will evolve over time. You know, we're only one or two days away from
this quite amazingly close victory. The cabinet is not yet put
together. I think Mr. Netanyahu is moving very rapidly to form his
cabinet and make the contacts, and over time he will decide his own
method and form of making these contacts.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Mr. Secretary, the United States was intimately involved
in reaching Oslo II, the second stage of the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process. It calls for Israeli withdrawal from certain towns in the West
Bank. All of those withdrawals are virtually complete now except for
Hebron, which was delayed by the Peres Government until after the
What is the U.S. -- what is your position? Should Israel withdraw and
redeploy its troops from Hebron in accordance with this agreement you
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That was certainly part of the commitment that
has been made. Mr. Netanyahu has indicated that he will abide by the
commitments that have been made by Israel. I think I'll just leave that
there. But it's still very early. Until his cabinet is put together,
until he has an opportunity to examine the situation, I think we ought
to withhold our judgment, just as we have been advising the Arab
countries to do.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, one of the things that Mr. Netanyahu
talked about during his campaign was restarting settlements on the West
Bank, if I understand it. What exactly is U.S. policy on settlements on
the West Bank?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Of course, we have a longstanding policy on
that, and that policy has not changed. But as to how it affects this
situation, Bob, once again I would simply say that Mr. Netanyahu will be
coming to the United States, talking with the President and others here,
and he'll be putting together a cabinet.
I think that we ought to wait and see how that particular issue
develops, along with the others. What is important here is that Mr.
Netanyahu has committed himself to continue the peace process and to
respect the existing agreements.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Just to make sure I'm clear on this, you said we do have
a policy. I take it that we oppose settlements on the West Bank. Is
that still U.S. policy?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think we'll have to adapt our policy to the
current situation. That was our policy. There's been no change in that
policy. But I would want to keep open the situation of adapting our
policy to the situation as it develops, as this new administration forms
its government and begins to develop its own policies.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, that's interesting, Mr. Secretary. How might we
adapt our policy? Traditionally, it's been that settlements are an
obstacle to peace; that under the loan guarantee agreement, as I
understand it, Israel undertook commitments not to build settlements
outside of the Jerusalem area -- new settlements. How might it be
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tom, I'm not going to go any further than I've
gone. I simply made what I regard as a prudent comment. I told you
we're not going to change the policy that we made. At the same time,
circumstances do change, and we'll move into dealing with this new
Israeli administration wanting to have a good arrangement with them --
wanting to have the same kind of close arrangement, close discussion,
trust and confidence that we had with the prior administration. So I
don't want to take any adamant positions here as they begin to form
MR. FRIEDMAN: Mr. Secretary, the lead story in The New York Times this
morning is about the subject of Bosnia, I believe the reason you're in
Geneva. It quotes a senior official -- it actually quotes a report by
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- as saying
that the conditions for elections to be held in Bosnia are not existent
on the ground today, but top U.S. officials are pressuring the OSCE to
certify that conditions do exist in Bosnia for elections so they can go
ahead. Are you one of those officials?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tom, I've met with all the top people involved
in that here today. The Presidents of the three Balkan countries who
signed the Dayton agreement; the top people to the OSCE. We're all
looking forward to elections within the context of the time period set
under Dayton, which would be by the middle of September. I think we're
all committed to having elections by that time.
Conditions may not be ideal yet, but at least there are more than three
months between now and that date. I think the significant thing is that
all the parties want to comply with the Dayton agreement, because
elections are very important. They're an aspect of reconciliation.
They're an aspect of continuing the calm that has been created in
There is a very strong degree of cooperation here on that, and I just
want to assure you that, having met with all the key figures here, I
would say that elections will go forward on schedule.
I want to include in that the Supreme Allied Commander, General Joulwan,
who emphatically indicated that he felt that elections should go ahead
and could go ahead on schedule.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, Mr. Secretary, we're going to leave it there.
I want to thank you for being with us this morning.
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